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Where do the Knicks take shots, and where do they allow shots?

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A statistical look at the first quarter-season (or so).

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have played 25 games so far this season, and I thought it might be a good time to look at the quarter(ish)-season in review. I should warn you all in advance that, as you have probably come to expect from me, this will be a stats-based review (all of which come from nba.com/stats, by the way). The plan is to examine both how often the Knicks are taking shots in each zone on the floor and how often their opponents are taking shots in each of those zones. I don't find it particularly relevant to this exercise to know how many shots New York or their opponents are actually making, for two reasons: first, 25 games is not a large sample size, so there will be a lot of randomness in FG%; and second, the point is to examine the Knicks' offensive and defensive schemes, not the success of those schemes. Got it? Cool. Let's start with the offense.

Offense

Below is a table depicting the FGA the Knicks take in each zone as a percentage of their total number of shots, along with their league rank in each zone.

Restricted Area
In the Paint Mid-Range
FGA
% of Total Rank FGA % of Total Rank FGA % of Total Rank
22.7
27.09% 29 10.9 13.01% 19 28 33.41% 3

Left Corner 3
Right Corner 3 Above the Break 3
FGA
% of Total Rank FGA % of Total Rank FGA % of Total Rank
3.6
4.30% 6 2.4 2.86% 22 16.2 19.33% 20

As you can see, the Knicks rank top 10 in two zones: left corner threes and mid-range shots. Unfortunately, third in mid-range shots is really not where a team should want to be, as those are the least efficient shots on the court. What I mean is that, even if a team hits 50% of their mid-range shots, a team hitting 33% of their threes would score the same amount of points. The Warriors are the best team in the league at hitting mid-range shots, and they hit only 44.4%. It's clear that mid-range shots should not be a staple of any team's offense. Good to see the Knicks taking a lot of left corner threes, though!

Now let's dig a little deeper by doing some statistical analysis. The simplest option here is to take a look at how removed from the average the Knicks are in each zone by using standard deviation. If you're curious what that is, click on that link. Otherwise, all you need to know is that the more standard deviations that are present between the Knicks' number and the average, the more of a statistical outlier the Knicks are. Why is this relevant? Because it's possible that every team is crowded around the average; even if the Knicks rank near the bottom in a certain zone, it may not mean they're doing a terrible job.

The next table depicts the average number of shots a team has taken in the given zone this season, the standard deviation, and the number of standard deviations the Knicks are separated from the average by.

Restricted Area
In the Paint Mid-Range
Avg
Std Dev NYK Dev Avg Std Dev NYK Dev Avg Std Dev NYK Dev
27.0
2.70 -1.61 12.3 2.44 -0.58 21.1 4.26 1.62

Left Corner 3
Right Corner 3 Above the Break 3
Avg
Std Dev NYK Dev Avg Std Dev NYK Dev Avg Std Dev NYK Dev
3.1
0.66 0.73 2.9 0.86 -0.58 17.5 3.46 -0.38

If the Knicks deviate from the average by more than 1 standard deviation, they are at least somewhat of an outlier. The only zones in which this is the case are the restricted area, where they are 1.6 standard deviations below average, and mid-range, where they are 1.6 standard deviations above it. This probably does not come as much of a shock, as it confirms what we see during games: the Knicks take a ton of mid-range shots and not enough at the basket.

Defense

Let's do the same drill, but now by looking at New York's defense. In this case, the table will depict how often Knick opponents shoot from each zone.

Restricted Area
In the Paint Mid-Range
FGA
% of Total Rank FGA % of Total Rank FGA % of Total Rank
29
34.32% 6 13.5 15.98% 7 21.2 25.09% 17

Left Corner 3
Right Corner 3 Above the Break 3
FGA
% of Total Rank FGA % of Total Rank FGA % of Total Rank
2.9
3.43% 19 2.4 2.84% 24 15.5 18.34% 28

Ideally, a defense will force its opponent into a lot of mid-range attempts while deterring 3 pointers and shots near the basket. The Knicks have kept opponents from shooting many right corner and above the break threes, but at the expense of letting up a lot of shots at the basket. However, the Knicks actually rank near the top of the league in opponent FG% on restricted area shots and just outside the top 10 on shots in the paint, so this tendency has not hurt them so far.

Here's a look at the average and standard deviation for each zone:

Restricted Area
In the Paint Mid-Range
Avg
Std Dev NYK Dev Avg Std Dev NYK Dev Avg Std Dev NYK Dev
27.1
1.86 1.04 12.3 1.66 0.71 21.1 2.00 0.06

Left Corner 3
Right Corner 3 Above the Break 3
Avg
Std Dev NYK Dev Avg Std Dev NYK Dev Avg Std Dev NYK Dev
3.1
0.59 -0.39 2.9 0.68 -0.77 17.5 1.54 -1.32

The possible outliers on defense are with respect to shots in the restricted area, where the Knicks are about 1 standard deviation below average, and above the break threes, where they're 1.3 standard deviations above average (remember, in this case a negative standard deviation means the Knicks are above average and vice versa). Again, this makes sense: the Knicks have done a much better job this season of running opponents off the 3-point line. In fact, the Knicks are better than average in all three 3-point zones.

Conclusion

The stats seem to back up the eye test on this one. The Knicks take too many mid-range shots and not enough 3-pointers, but do a good job at making sure opponents don't take many threes either. Unless the team radically updates its offensive philosophy, I doubt much will change on that end. However, their defensive scheme is sensible: they are funneling opponents into the paint, where Robin Lopez and Kristaps Porzingis can shut them down.